India and France have close and friendly relations. In 1998 both countries entered into a Strategic Partnership which is indicative of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship. This year both countries are celebrating 25 years of this strategic partnership. It is based on close cooperation in the sectors of defence, civil nuclear energy, space and security, cyber security, counter-terrorism, intelligence and now includes a strong Indo-Pacific component as well. Both nations also have important bilateral investments and trade and commercial cooperation particularly in sectors involving IT corridors, smart-cities, railways, capital and trade exchanges,skill development etc. France is the 11th largest foreign investor in India France and India are engaged in constant, detailed dialogue at all levels. During External Affairs Minister’s visit to France in February 2022 both sides adopted the India France Roadmap on Blue Economy and Ocean Governance. Recently Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goel was also addressed India-France Business Summit and roundtable discussions with CEOs in Paris and invited them to take part in new India digital transformation initiatives. Vice President Jagdeep interaction with a delegation of Young Leaders from the France India Foundation asked them to work together for societal and economic development for the larger benefit of humanity.
- France has always been sympathetic to similar Indian claims based on its ancient civilisation.
- Defence cooperation with France began in the 1950s when India acquired the Ouragan aircraft and continued with the Mystères, Jaguar (Anglo-French), Mirage 2000.
- Both countries started joint naval exercises ‘Varuna’ in 1983.
- France has historically shown more understanding of our strategic programmes than others. It was the first western country with which we established a Strategic Partnership.
- France is the first country with which we initiated a Strategic Dialogue after our 1998 nuclear tests when France refused to impose bilateral any sanctions on us and displayed a far greater understanding of India’s security compulsions compared to other countries.
- It was the first P-5 country to support India’s claim for a permanent seat in an expanded and reformed UN Security Council.
- Indo-French naval cooperation is aimed at securing the critical sea lanes, the need to effectively combat security threats piracy, trans-national crime and terrorism and also to build security capacities in the Indian Ocean.
- The more substantive pay-off of a nautical pact with France for India is a potential expansion of the Indian Navy’s operational footprint across the Indo-Pacific region.
- French facilities are likely to add to India’s network of nautical outposts in the IOR, including in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Seychelles, where India plans to build and operate a military base.
- An agreement for building six Scorpène submarines in India with French help was signed in 2005.
- Similarly, technology sharing and acquisitions of short range missiles and radar equipment were concluded.
- Joint exercises between the air forces (Garuda series) and the armies (Shakti) were instituted in 2003 and 2011, respectively.
- The government-to-government agreement for 36 Rafale aircrafts has taken place. The ambitious offset target of 50% (nearly ₹25,000 crore), properly implemented, can help in building up India’s budding aerospace industry.
- An agreement was signed about a decade ago for building six EPR (European Pressurized Reactors) nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of 9.6 GW for which negotiations have been on-going between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Areva.
- On green energy, the International Solar Alliance is set in motion jointly by India and France.
- France offered an extra $861.5 million by 2022 for solar projects in developing countries.
- The agreement on the industrial way forward between NPCIL and EdF(Areva) affirms that work at Jaitapur will commence before the end of 2018.
- Like India, France has expressed concern about China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- French overseas territories in the Indian and the Pacific Oceans provide it with the second largest exclusive economic zone globally. It has long maintained bases in Reunion Islands and Djibouti and established one in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
Trade between two countries:
- Trade has grown in recent years but at $10 billion is half of the trade with Germany.
- Nearly $16 billion worth of agreements at the business summit were signed. There are nearly 1,000 French companies present in while over a hundred Indian businesses have established a presence in France.
- In the past, Indian companies saw the U.K. as the entry point for Europe; now with Brexit approaching, India can also look at France as its entry point for Europe.
- Earlier France assisted India to setup Sriharikota launch site.
- Today, it is a relationship of near equals and the ‘vision statement’ refers to world class joint missions for space situational awareness, high resolution earth observation missions with applications in meteorology, oceanography and cartography.
- Currently about 2,500 Indians go to France annually to pursue higher education, compared to more than 250,000 from China.
- The agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees and the follow-on Knowledge Summit, where 14 MoUs between educational and scientific institutions were signed.
- While there are only about 20 flights a week between India and France, there are four times as many to Germany and 10 times as many to the U.K. So no of flights between India and France has to be increased.
- While the governments share a robust relationship, the business relationships are weak. Bilateral trade is less than half of India’s trade with Germany. The target of €12 billion set in 2008 remains elusive.
- French FDI has picked up in recent years, but hardly does justice to the fact that there are more than 800 French enterprises in India.
French social security laws, long-term student visas, and the facility to work for two-three years to pay off student loans are some of the areas that need to be worked out so that more effective cooperation can take place between the two countries.